Health And Family

Chaka and 'the change'

MIDLIFERY - Twink Macaraeg - The Philippine Star

I was just about to board a Hong Kong Disneyland ride a couple of weeks ago, when I was accosted by an attendant in an officious-looking Ranger costume. The girl was telling me something in the accent peculiar to the former Crown Colony. After a fashion, I gathered that she was barring me from getting into the pop car. “So sorry but you cannot ride,” she was saying. 

I couldn’t fathom why this would be so. Surely, she couldn’t be questioning my driving skills when kids, including my nine-year-old, were already buckled into the vehicle of their choice (and giving me nasty looks for holding up the trip). After determining that the girl was indeed talking to me (and didn’t just have a lazy eye condition), I asked, “But why not?”

Looking genuinely concerned, she answered, “Eet’s not good for expectant mother.”

Girlfriends to whom I relate the tale are invariably outraged. They all conclude that this  shall we say  misconception must’ve arisen from my attire. “You were wearing some empire-cut outfit, ‘no?”

Actually, no. I was in a stretch tank top and drawstring sweats, standard garb for traipsing around a theme park in 36 deg heat. And, I’ve since decided, the kind of thing  moreso than a flouncy top and leggings  that would lead someone to think of me as pregnant. It makes no attempt at cover-up the way a merely fat person would.   It exposes limbs that look incongruously spindly alongside the bulging belly. It’s exactly what a pregnant person would wear if she wanted to flaunt her pregnancy but not do a nude cover on Vanity Fair.

Except, I’m not pregnant. In a not entirely fallacious way, I’m the opposite: menopausal. But I thought that I’d dealt with the symptoms healthily enough that the “change of life” was barely life-changing. A daily routine of tweezing and teasing managed the hairs that have begun sprouting on my chin, and camouflaged the bald spot developing on my head. The bouts of insomnia I treated as opportunities to catch up on DVD shows my hubby doesn’t care for (“what do you see in that Tina Fey anyway?”). Night sweats were addressed by turning the a/c to Siberian. And the loss of sexual desire I accepted as directly proportional to the loss of my hubby’s sexual desirability (he’d taken to sleeping in thermal underwear and a wool cap).

What I wasn’t prepared for was the “middle-aged spread”, the thickening of the mid-section induced by the hormonal levels gone awry. What happens, apparently, is , the body, in an attempt to balance the levels, tries to find estrogen that the ovaries no longer produce. Since fat cells contain estrogen, the body creates more fat. That piece of Chocnut that you allowed yourself, could just as well be a bottle of peanut butter. Your treacherous body transforms the dainty ensaymada that would have been rude to refuse, into the equivalent of a tub of Star margarine (which, as we know, melts only under extreme circumstances). 

Testosterone, which I’d always thought women in my family had a surfeit of  judging from the tendency of strangers on the other end of a phone line to address us as “sir” and our reputation for the kind of behaviour frequently described as “ballsy”  likewise wanes. Alas, testosterone is what helps the body create lean muscle mass (taking synthetic versions of it is what makes some female athletes look like Arnold Schwarzeneger. Heck, it’s what made Arnold Schwarzeneger look like Arnold Schwarzeneger). And since calorie-burning muscle cells are what speed up our metabolic rate, when testosterone levels drop, a woman´s metabolism winds down, and fewer calories are burned. This, even though, in the last two years, you did a hundred sun salutations a week, played semi-serious badminton on weekends, and added more actual running to the “running” that you and your neighbors do while exchanging horror stories about your maids, the latest shenanigans of your children, and gardening tips. Since Noynoy was elected President (a common benchmark), you stopped fitting into bottoms that aren’t elasticized yet you’re not eating any more than you used to and you’re now exercising as much as Demi Moore.

But the strangest deal has got to be androgen, which, in contrast to the two previously-mentioned hormones, INCREASES with the onset of menopause. The bump in androgen causes weight to make its way to your abdomen instead of getting distributed more proportionately. Think of your added poundage as dough, while androgen is the misguided chef who insists on including yeast and shaping it into a ball instead of rolling it out. The result is a jumbo monay   which yoga core work seems to merely harden into week-old petrified jumbo monay  set incongruously as the centerpiece of a dining table when all the guests are on carb-free diets.

I don’t know whether it’s because of the overload of information about the downside to HRT, or because I’m several generations removed from when women suffering the vapours or requiring smelling salts were viewed with any sympathy, but I didn’t for a moment think to look for professional help about my condition (okay, I did Google bioidentical hormones but didn’t pursue it beyond the words “vaginal injections”). Man up about menopause, I say.

Besides, Suzanne Somers is kind of a sad role model to have in midlife. Instead, one has only to visualize Chaka Khan in the American Idol Season 11 Finale. Picture yourself in her place, belting the diva anthem I’m Every Woman and still managing to hit all the high notes. True, she needed assistance (just as we would) descending the steps, but as soon as she set foot on the stage, she owned it; strutting about in her six-inch heels and showing up that whippersnapper-ing bunch, Jessica Sanchez et al. And true, she was wearing Spanx, but clearly under no illusion that she looked slim. She rocked that jewelled chocolate catsuit as if revelling in the fullness of her gut and butt. She was so awesome that not a single cheap reference in the entire Twitter-verse was made to Chaka being chaka.

Embrace the “change” and you’ll take any suggestions about being pregnant as proof that you exude the aura of one young enough to be capable of child-bearing. Remember, too, that the Middle Ages gave birth to the Renaissance. Channel your inner Chaka, I tell you, and all those who behold your magnificence  their mouths agape  can only say: Whoah. Whoah. Whoah. 

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